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June 30, 2008 at 1:05 pm #139075Jedi_PhoenixModerator
I was about to post this under the thread Jax has going, but I felt like maybe it wasn’t related enough. Today I saw a new article on Yahoo about 5 ways to get better sleep, or beating insomnia. I actually liked some of these suggestions and will definitley try them: Let me know what you guys think, or if you maybe have any other suggestions.
We’ve all been there in the heart-pounding moments at 3 a.m., when we desperately want to be asleep but somehow cannot get there, when we are racking our brains for what is in our medicine cabinet that might help us along or what soothing things mothers and grandmothers did to help lull us back into sweet dreams. While our sleep can be easily interrupted by a wide variety of factors, the stress that comes in getting and staying asleep doesn’t make any night more restful. Before you pop a pill or crank up the late late late show or melt down in a fit of insomnia, consider these five things that might just be the sheep you should be counting:
1. Identify the insomnia issue. Americans average seven hours of sleep a night and 60% of us report difficulty sleeping at least several nights a week. The bigger problem is, many people leave it at that, never examining why they are awake long before the alarm clock goes off or everyone else is sound asleep.
Where do I begin? The first thing you need to do to cure your sleep struggles is determining if you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep all night, you’re experiencing insomnia. If you can fall asleep with ease but wake up in the middle of the night regularly, you may have the more-specific issue of “sleep maintenance insomnia”. Most of us have short-term sleep issues like these at some point, but a solid 10-15% of people suffer from chronic insomnia.
Insomnia often occurs during periods of stress and may be impacted by depression, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Rather than focusing on the irritation of being sleep-deprived, try to take a look at both the patterns of insomnia and things going on in your waking life that could be preventing your rest.
2. Take note. Consider keeping an informal sleep journal next to your bed. There’s no need to make a journal another stresser but logging some simple information – the date, the time you woke up, how long you stayed awake before you felt sleepy again, your stress level on a one to ten scale – might offer you some helpful information in addressing the insomnia yourself or with a doctor. Although you might know, for example, that you have a high-stress job, it might take a little journaling to connect midnight wakings with Thursday staff meetings or an upcoming deadline.
How will this help? Taking note of how often you have sleep problems and exactly when may also strip away any of those tendencies to say “I NEVER sleep” or “I’m an AWFUL sleeper.” Instead, you’ll have some more concrete information that will move you from “I often am awake from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.” or “When bills are due, it takes me longer to fall asleep.” This kind of real understanding will lead you to a solution much easier than sitting (or laying or pacing) in your frustration).
3. Use your daytime activity to support your nighttime rest. It probably isn’t a surprise that even small amounts of exercise will help you rest easier at night. Adding in a walk after lunch or some yoga at your desk will pay off when it is time to turn in.
What about food? Avoid drinking and eating things that will affect your ability to relax or stay in bed. If spicy food gives you heartburn, try not to eat it at a late dinner. If drinking all your water for the day sends you to the bathroom four times before dawn, make a commitment to do most of your hydrating before lunch. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol are also common thieves of sleep, so be aware of when you are consuming them, in what quantities and how the impact your personal sleep patterns. If you must eat close to bedtime, choose a small amount of carbs paired with a protein (oatmeal with skim milk, yogurt with granola, whole grain crackers with soy butter, sliced apple with cheese are all healthy choices to late night snacking).
4. Really prepare for bed. As a mother, I don’t know a single parent who doesn’t have a well-established bedtime routine for their children. As a mother, I also find myself falling into bed with barely any transition time or closure on the day. At what point do we forget why the songs-stories-snuggles end of the day is so critical to the beginning of our night?
There’s no need to ask your husband to read you Goodnight Moon and rub your back while singing Frere Jacques (but if that works, hey, why not?). Do weave some soothing rituals into the half-hour before you want to fall asleep by reading a few pages, stretching, meditating, listening to calm music or just breathing deeply. Releasing the day in these ways will help you let go of those nagging to-do lists and anxieties and prompt your brain and body that it is time to relax.
What are some other routines I can do? Setting a cell phone or watch alarm may cue you to keep a regular bedtime. Lavender essential oils or pillow sprays may soothe you as you settle in and counteract the chaos of the day. Finally, turn off the television, laptop and any other gadgets that make you unnecessarily accessible to life and work outside your bedroom. Finally, there’s one thing from your childhood that may still work like a charm when you are having trouble sleeping. Warm milk may really help you drift off because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that converts melatonin and seratonin and could induce sleepiness.
5. Create a bedroom that seduces you into sleep. Do you notice on cable home make-over shows how often couples ask for a renovation that will make their bedroom into a haven? Our frenetic schedules, cluttered homes and tight spaces may mean we stack up so much in our bedrooms that there’s no way to escape, even to sleep! Taking a weekend to clear all that out will help you make a healthy sleep environment and may have an immediate impact on how restful you feel in that space.
Many experts say that your bedroom should be a place reserved only for sleeping and sexual intimacy (see? once again, it comes back to the snuggling). Keep this in mind as you are moving your desk, filing cabinets, sewing machines, mountainous laundry piles and kids’ toys out of your room and into places where no one needs to sleep.
How can I dial down the action and dial up the allure? Keeping your room cool and dark, choosing pillows and bedding that are comfortable and you enjoy settling in to and adding black-out curtains behind your window treatments will help set the stage. Remove the television. If this pains you or your partner, consider moving it out for a month to see if it helps. If it must stay, keep it in a cabinet or armoire that closes or cover it with a scarf so you have one more marker for turning off when you turn in.
If the stress of your days still seeps in, keep a worry book by your bed where you can write down what (literally) could keep you awake that night. Or if the to-dos are what’s nagging at you all night, keep a stack of sticky notes and pen next to the bed so you can transcribe them right away, knowing you can pick them up in the morning.
I will definitely try that sleep journal (adding it right next to that dream journal, meditation journal, and exercise journal hahaha) and will try some of the suggestions for falling asleep. I’ve already been told about listening to the calming music or meditating; but have never tried it, so it will be interesting to see what happens =]June 30, 2008 at 5:07 pm #148751JaxKeymaster
I’ve found that, on days where my head just won’t calm down, turning on the tv real quiet, or turning on an audiobook/music helps. It gives the brain just enough to focus on so you can fall asleep. Other times, no noise at all is needed, and a pillow over the hears is very helpful.
Don’t underestimate the value of comfort as well. You may need a different pillow or blankets to be more comfortable. If you’re too hot or cold that will be distracting. We have a fan in our room rather than adjusting the AC too much, and that also helps to add white noise. You might find that useful Phoenix.
Sleep is the most amazing thing to me because it shouldn’t be difficult, yet it is. I don’t know why I wake up after an hour. Last night I woke up every single hour, but part of that is bad temperature management. But it seems to not matter, I always wake up an hour into sleep. The sleep doctor didn’t have an answer for that one. lol
It’s good to have a reminder of these things. Thanks for sharing them.June 30, 2008 at 11:49 pm #148755inariParticipant
In traditional Chinese medicine, insomnia is a major indicator of imbalance in the bodily system. It is also a complicated one, touching upon many different areas.
The first thing to look at is whether you are having difficulty falling asleep, or wake early and then cannot go back to sleep. Secondly, if you find that you are waking at roughly the same time each night, that is also indicative of problems due to the ‘meridian clock’. Each meridian system cycles through the day, waxing and waning once a day. For the night time meridians, the Triple Heater (San Jiao) peak between 9 and 11pm, the Gall Bladder between 11 and 1am, the Liver between 1 and 3 am, the Lung between 3 and 5 am, and the Large Intestine between 5 and 7 am. Additionally, each of these peaking meridians has a corresponding meridian that is at its lowest point during those times which also needs to be looked at (I told you it was complicated lol).
Meridians that are usually involved in insomnia and sleeping problems are the Spleen (Earth element, worry!) and Heart (Fire). There are additional ‘pathologies’ such as Empty Yin that cause you to get very hot at night, usually with hotter hands, feet and sometimes chest, and this interferes with sleep.
The usual practice with TCM is to identify the areas of imbalance, and remember here that weather factors (such as heat in summer contribute to or cause pathologies) need to be taken into account. So, diet, environment, emotional and physical factors need to be taken into consideration, and then a treatment plan devised to bring all back into balance. Diet is a really important factor in this, and if you’re somewhere hot, energetically cooling and moist or cooling and dry (depending on where you live) assist in this process. BTW icecream doesn’t count!!! I recommend that you do some research on the web, or have a look for a particularly good book ‘Healing with Whole Foods’ for more information.
And good luck.July 1, 2008 at 2:13 am #148756JaxKeymaster
It is a good book…slightly overwhelming though. lol For those not really familiar with eastern medicine, get between heaven and earth first. I’m hoping to find someone to help me with this stuff locally, but until then I need to go back to that book and remind myself of all of this as well.August 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm #176386Kol DrakeModerator
Over the last year, I’ve bumped into the term ‘second sleep’. This article covers ‘the way we were’… which speaks to living in dark homes (with possible a fireplace and one candle to fight the darkness). Who knows, maybe this is smarter for our bodies…
Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You — Author: SlumberWise May 16, 2013
Ok, maybe your grandparents probably slept like you. And your great, great-grandparents. But once you go back before the 1800s, sleep starts to look a lot different. Your ancestors slept in a way that modern sleepers would find bizarre – they slept twice. And so can you.
The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.
His research found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.
References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.
“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.
An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.
Ekirch’s book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past is replete with such examples.
But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.
Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.
Others might smoke, talk with co-sleepers, or have sex. Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours.
As we know, this practice eventually died out. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses. Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book Evening’s Empire. With the rise of more street lighting, night stopped being the domain of criminals and sub-classes and became a time for work or socializing. Two sleeps were eventually considered a wasteful way to spend these hours.
No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20th century the concept of two sleeps had vanished form common knowledge.
Until about 1990.
Two sleeps per night may have been the method of antiquity, but tendencies towards it still linger in modern man. There could be an innate biological preference for two sleeps, given the right circumstances.
In the early ‘90s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a study on photoperiodicity (exposure to light), and its effect on sleep patterns.
In his study, fifteen men spent four weeks with their daylight artificially restricted. Rather than staying up and active the usual sixteen hours per day, they would stay up only ten. The other fourteen hours they would be in a closed, dark room, where they would rest or sleep as much as possible. This mimics the days in mid-winter, with short daylight and long nights.
At first, the participants would sleep huge stretches of time, likely making up for sleep debt that’s common among modern people. Once they had caught up on their sleep though, a strange thing started to happen.
They began to have two sleeps.
Over a twelve hour period, the participants would typically sleep for about four or five hours initially, then wake for several hours, then sleep again until morning. They slept not more than eight hours total.
The middle hours of the night, between two sleeps, was characterized by unusual calmness, likened to meditation. This was not the middle-of-the-night toss-and-turn that many of us experienced. The individuals did not stress about falling back asleep, but used the time to relax.
Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, points out that even with standard sleep patterns, this night waking isn’t always cause for concern. “Many people wake up at night and panic,” he says. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.”
Outside of a scientific setting, this kind of sleep pattern is still attainable, but it does require changing our modern, electric lifestyle. Very cool person J. D. Moyer did just that. He and his family intentionally went an entire month with no electric light.
In the winter months, this meant a lot of darkness and a lot of sleep. Moyer writes “…I would go to bed really early, like 8:30, and then get up around 2:30am. This was alarming at first, but then I remembered that this sleep pattern was quite common in pre-electric light days. When this happened I would end up reading or writing by candlelight for an hour or two, then going back to bed.”
Moyer didn’t set out to reproduce our ancestors sleep pattern, it just happened as a byproduct of a lot of dark hours.
Should We Revive Two Sleeps?
Although history shows that two sleeping was common, and science indicates that it is (in some conditions) natural, there is no indication that it is better. Two sleeps may leave you feeling more rested, but this could simply be because you are intentionally giving yourself more time to rest, relax, and sleep. Giving the same respect to the single, eight-hour sleep should be just as effective.
Note too that two sleeping needs a lot of darkness – darkness that is only possible naturally during the winter months. The greater levels of daylight during summer and other seasons would make two sleeping difficult, or even impossible.
Perhaps two sleeping is merely a coping mechanism to get through the long, cold, boring nights of the winter. Today, we don’t need to cope. So long as we give our sleep the time and respect it needs, getting the “standard” eight hours of sleep should be fine.
But next time you wake up at 2 AM and can’t sleep, just remember your great, great, great, great, great grandfather. He did the same thing every night.August 25, 2013 at 2:00 am #176389JaxKeymaster
In case I haven’t mentioned this, we’ve also had luck with rubbing lotion into the feet before bed. Many times our feet get dry and just don’t allow energy to flow as well as it should. The lotion often draws a lot of energy down which also helps sooth the mind and make it easier to sleep.August 19, 2014 at 6:19 am #181687Kol DrakeModerator
Sleep Hack: Keep Your Feet Outside Your Covers By Melissa Dahl
NY Magazine — Sleep Hack
Introducing a slightly odd but potentially very useful sleep hack: Keep one foot, or both feet, outside of your blanket. It could help you both sleep better and fall asleep faster, a sleep researcher explained to Science of Us.
I started thinking about this recently when I was idly chatting with a buddy about how (relatively) nice and cool it had been recently in New York, and how much nicer it is to sleep when it’s cooler outside. He replied with what is apparently his formula for a perfect night’s sleep: “One foot out from under the blanket and a nice breeze coming from the window.”
I do the same thing, I realized — keep my foot outside the covers — but I have never known why. A slow news day in August seemed as good as a time as any to find out, so I spoke with Natalie Dautovitch, a spokesperson for the National Sleep Foundation and a psychology professor at the University of Alabama. Dautovitch’s research focuses on chronopsychology — that is, how our routines and biological rhythms fluctuate throughout the day and night, and how that affects our health and well-being. And while she said there has never been any research specifically looking into my question, she was game to offer up a few theories based on her research.
What it comes down to, she thinks, is the connection between sleep and temperature. Sleep researchers know that right before you fall asleep, your body temperature starts to drop; in the deepest stages of sleep, your body is at its coolest, about one or two degrees below normal. Some scientists believe cooler temperatures cause sleepiness, and although the pre-slumber cooling process happens naturally, there are a few things you can do to help it along, like taking a warm bath right before bed, for example. When you leave the tub, your body temperature rapidly cools, triggering that sleepy feeling. A warm beverage works the same way. (( maybe all those old stories about hot coco or a hot ‘toddy’ before bed helped more than we imagined! ))
Which brings us back to the foot thing. “I think it’s likely in service of trying to cool our bodies down because we have gotten too warm to sleep,” Dautovitch said.
But why the foot, specifically? The skin surfaces of both our hands and feet are unique, Dautovitch explained, both in that they are hairless and because they contain specialized vascular structures that help with heat loss. Specifically, the hands and feet contain blood vessels called the arteriovenous anastomoses, which — coupled with the lack of hair on the bottoms of your feet — are perfectly designed to help dissipate body heat. So combine that with what scientists know about the decrease in body temperature during sleep, and it’s possible that “sticking your toe out or your foot out could bring you to a more restorative sleep,” Dautovitch said.
In general, people tend to sleep best in colder rooms, between 60 and 67 degrees, she said. So if you are looking for a more conventional sleepy-time tip, maybe just get an extra fan.August 19, 2014 at 8:12 pm #181692JaxKeymaster
I can’t sleep in the house as well when it’s cold because I don’t want to have to wear more clothes. I often have one foot out of the covers, or even partially out. We also have fans going all the time, and it is still chilly in the house to help my wife sleep. But camping when it got down to 37 degrees was fine because I had all my clothes on, and my coat, and two thick blankets. Got some really deep sleep then.August 25, 2014 at 1:52 pm #181791YoshioModerator
Interesting read! Especially as I could experience similar things myself during this summer – okay, actually we haven’t had much of a summer concerning the temperatures we saw but anyway – during the summer holiday or better said our wedding holiday we both slept on the bed completely without using any blankets to cover. But even now, we have a very chilly if not to say cool August, I do like to uncover my legs or even get them out of the blanket. It does help me to cool my body as I experience that it gets quite warm after about five to ten minutes lying down in bed.
Anyway, I will pay closer attention to it and see if it can help me to fall asleep easier.
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